Participants at the Alternative for Germany Congress in Augsburg, Germany, June 30, 2018. (Michaela Rehle / Reuters)
A dangerous nostalgia or a healthy national pride?

Berlin – Armin-Paulus Hampel, a former journalist and commentator who is now a member of the Bundestag, is overflowing, affable, perspicacious, voluble and in excellent company for lunch. But as his party is Alternative to Germany, one may wonder if he is the representative and he is as politically friendly as he is socially.

AfD is a Rorschach test for German policy observers who see it as either a resurgence of worrying national trends or a healthy response from the political market to untreated anxieties. It was founded in 2013, two years before Chancellor Angela Merkel impulsively decided to host nearly a million asylum seekers, mostly from the Middle East. The nation was brutally challenged to become a melting pot at a time when the growing interest in finding a sense of German.

Politics is usually rooted in grievances, and Hampel complains that Germany, as part of the EU's common currency, has a mission to bail out lazy, spendthrift Greeks and other Southern Europeans. . In this, AfD resembles the American theatrical movement, which was a spontaneous combustion in response to TARP (Rescue for Dangerous Goods Program), the bailout of banks and people with improvised mortgages.

The AfD is the strongest where resentments are the deepest – in what was until 1990 in East Germany. There, the change was fast and difficult and the incomes are still significantly lower than those of the rest of Germany, which was spared by immersion in socialism. AFD is hostile to populism in the face of disruptions and homogenization that accompany globalization. Thus, the AfD admits that populism does not have the means: globalization is not optional for any developed country, let alone for Germany, which exports four times more than the United States and ten times more than the United States. China.

Hampel, who sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Bundestag, understands Russia's persistent aggression against Ukraine, which he said has long been at the heart of Russian identity, and includes many ethnic Russians. etc. He suggests that Russia's behavior in its sphere of influence is not a matter for Germany. His view on this – call it "Germany first" – can be wrong without being flawed. However, given what is known about Russia's interference in the domestic politics of other countries, it would be reassuring to know that the AfD does not receive any Russian subsidies. Three years ago, hackers working for Russia broke into the Bundestag's computer network. Last week, members of all parties of the Bundestag, with the exception of the AfD, were victims of a hack attack.

Edmund Burke, founding father of modern conservatism, said: "To be attached to the subdivision, to love the small peloton to which we belong in society, is the first principle (in a sense, the germ) of public affections." patriotism springs from the local soil, from the rich soil of community-based civil society institutions such as families, churches, unions, clubs, service organizations, etc. But as the European Union evolves, more relentlessly than democratically, towards an ever deeper "harmonization" of political practices and national economic policies, populist movements are retreating by embracing the European nations themselves as small squads. , molecular subdivisions that concentrate affections.

L & # 39; economist The magazine describes the discontent of many developed nations as "a surge of nostalgia," an "orgy of reminiscences" that serves "anchoring in a changing world" and "a source of comfort and esteem for self. " In Germany, however, nostalgia is, for reasons as painful as it is obvious, always problematic, even presumptuous.

When an AFD election party was completed with participants singing the national anthem, many opponents considered this a transgression. It is, however, dangerous for a country to detect danger in expressions of national pride or in the search for a national identity that goes beyond economic success. Remove expressions of national pride and you may reap a frozen version of pride.

German post-war policy was founded on the premise that there should be no party to the right of the Christian Democratic Union. There is now and AfD is the largest opposition party in the Bundestag. Hampel considers the AfD as the "natural successor" of the CDU, which has ruled Germany for 50 of the past 70 years. According to his judgment, Germany may have an AfD Chancellor in 2023. The party will then only ten years old. However, the US Republican Party was only six when it won the presidency. But in 1860, the American nation was separating in an irrepressible conflict, a stable and temperate Germany that will not disappear in four years.

CORRECTION: A recent column by George F. Will called the German Social Democratic Party "SDP". The correct initialism is "SPD".

© 2019, Washington Post Writers Group

George Will


George Will is a Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist. His email address is georgewill@washpost.com.